Third in a Series of Exclusive Interviews with Contestants of Syfy’s
“Who Wants to be a Superhero?”
By Mark Otnes, 11-6-2014
Editor, The Joe Report
In this, our third interview with contestants of SyFy’s unforgettable (2006-07) hit reality series, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?,” we’ll get to know one of the show’s most colorful, outgoing and amiable of the show’s wannabe heroes, Indiana’s own, Dan Williams, aka “Parthenon.” Over the 7 years since the show left the air (it wasn’t cancelled, creator Stan Lee simply declined to return for a 3rd season), the popular Williams has been the regular subject of multiple print, internet and radio interviews. During his time on television, Dan came across as the type of guy it’d be difficult to dislike, with a genuinely warm and approachable demeanor, he made friends easily and bonded well with his fellow contestants. Now, despite having returned to his everyday “secret identity” in Florida, Williams continues to enjoy discussing his experiences on the show and life-long passion for comic books, cosplay and superheroes. We caught up with Dan recently and requested an interview. He kindly agreed to answer our litany of admittedly geeky fan questions, and we want to sincerely thank him (and our readers) for indulging us today.
TJR: It’s been 7 years since we last saw you on TV. Let’s begin by catching up a little. What do you do for a living? Can you walk us through a typical day for Dan Williams in 2014?
TJR: Your fans and fans of the show actually know very little about your personal background. Where are you from originally? Where did you go to college? How did you end up where you live and work today? Can you fill us in?
“I’m originally from Schererville, Indiana. I was born and raised there for all of my life. It’s really close to Chicago, IL, so I had the best of both worlds; living in a smaller town while having the big city just minutes away. I went to school at Purdue University and graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Engineering and a focus in Telecommunications. It basically combines the technical side of an engineer while allowing me to study video production, graphic design and other creative outlets. So, I always tell people that ‘Technically; I’m Creative!’
While I was attending Purdue, I got a job at Walt Disney World for the summer on the College Program. I worked at the ‘Tower Of Terror’ as a ride operator and found I loved living in Orlando. The next summer, I auditioned in Chicago and came back down to Disney as a character performer. Then, after I graduated, I decided to move to Orlando and make it my home. As for how I got into teaching, I give that credit to my friend Eric. He convinced me to start teaching a college-level fashion design course at night on the side, which I did for a couple of months. I loved it because I have always had a passion for fashion!”
“That teaching opportunity soon let me to taking over as the Department Chair of the whole Multimedia Education Department. I took that full-time position and went part-time at Disney where I have been ever since. The college is actually where I was working while filming the TV show and it can be seen in a few of the opening scenes. I held the Department Chair position there for a little over 5 years before moving onward and upward.
Eventually, my great friend Rebecca convinced me to come and take a tour of a new college, Full Sail University, where she was working and I fell in love with the place. It has a wonderfully creative atmosphere and focuses mainly on the Entertainment Arts. I interviewed and quickly became a Course Director there. I love it!”
TJR: I believe you’re an artist too, is that correct? Are you a commercial illustrator or a fine artist? What media do you prefer working in and have you created any works you’d like to share with us?
“I am an artist, but I prefer to think of myself as a ‘Creative Extraordinaire.’ That’s actually the title on my personal business cards! I love to create—anything! I do anything from logos for companies, to interactive displays, to animations for hotels, websites, sculpture, costumes, props, etc. One of my favorite things to do is interior design, but I do it a bit different and call it ‘Extreme Theme,’ I take after the Disney way of thinking and prefer an all-encompassing theme to a room.”
“One of my favorite rooms that I have ever done has got to be my Peter Pan living room. My mom and I build a two-story Big Ben Clock tower book-case and I hand painted all of the clouds and airbrushed all of the stars. The Peter and Wendy are cutout of wood and I hand painted them too. In my new house, I switched it up a bit and got away from the Disney theme and created a comic book room and a giant wall mural out of paint sample squares (sorry Wal-Mart!). As far as normal artwork, one is called ‘Solitude’ and features Superman trapped in a crystal and ‘Starry Speck At Night.’ I also make props and costumes.”
TJR: Can you tell us about your other interests, such as pirates, comic books and cosplay? And are there any other hobbies, activities or pastimes you currently enjoy that we may not know about?
“I’ve been collecting comic books since I was 9 years old. When I was little, I didn’t really like to read, but once I started liking comics, my mom took advantage of that and kept buying them for me. I currently have over 5000 and YES, I’ve read every single one! I am much more into the stories and characters than the authors or artists, so that is where my comic knowledge starts to fall apart.”
“This passion for superheroes and my love of costumes is what got me into cosplay originally. I currently have hundreds of costumes and my collection grows all the time. Half of my garage is nothing but costumes, including my newest fully revolving Sharknado (see video clip below). It took me 3 months to build and you can walk in it and maneuver surprisingly well, although stairs still are horrible!”
“As for other hobbies, I love theater. I started in high school and have been somehow involved ever since. One of my favorite roles was the Pirate King in Pirates Of Penzance. A clip from the show you didn’t get to see is when Stan Lee was asking me about my pirate bedroom. I responded with the fact that I played the Pirate King and his lightning fast response was: ‘Well, anyone who likes Gilbert and Sullivan can’t be bad!’
“Working with a Disney community-theater group, I had the chance to host quite a few events and found I really enjoy hosting (anything really). My favorite opportunity came when I hosted the Out Of This World Fashion Show for the Orlando History Museum. It was a giant event that had celebrity judges from NSYNC and 2 contestants from Project Runway. It was a perfect combination of everything I love!”
TJR: What’s it like being a celebrity? When we interviewed John Stork, aka “Hyper-Strike” (HERE), we were surprised when he stated he didn’t feel he WAS a celebrity, despite all the evidence to the contrary. How about you? Do you feel your time as a TV celebrity is over now, or are you still asked for autographs, etc? Do you have any post-show celebrity stories you’d care to share?
“Celebrity is a tricky word. I don’t know if I would consider myself a celebrity either. If I were, I would be on the ‘G-List,’ because usually the only people who know me are gays and geeks! I do still get asked for autographs every now and then, but it’s probably because I go to a lot of comic cons, but just as a normal guest. Every now and then something will pop back up and I always get a kick out of it. I think if anything made me feel like a celebrity, it’s when I was sent pictures of people cosplaying as Parthenon! There’s something in that, which is really touching to me.”
TJR: You’re handsome, photogenic, and eloquent. And you’re clearly quite comfortable in front of TV cameras and on the radio. Have you ever considered a career in entertainment? Perhaps in theater, television, films, or even as “on-air talent” for radio? And have you appeared in any other television programs or motion pictures?
“First of all, thank you! That was super-nice of you to say. As I mentioned earlier, I do love theater and hosting. I usually just do that on the side. I have been in a few TV shows, but all of them are super random and were more of a ‘right place at the right time’ type of thing. For example, I was on a TV show about thrill-rides when I was riding the Big Shot in Las Vegas, in a few specials for Disney, and made some commercials for the Hard Rock Casino and Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort.”
“I also recently filmed a short documentary about my time on the show called ‘Parthenon: Unearthing The Hero.’ As for future plans, I am currently working on a new video blog series of my own design called ‘Super Secrets – Crafting For Superheroes;’ which will be quick DIY videos about creating costumes and props. Would I ever do a TV series again? Maybe. If the right show came along!”
TJR: Fans already know pretty much everything there is to know about your superhero character Parthenon, but whatever happened to “Brace,” the second superhero character you created? It sounded exciting! Could you describe Brace for us? And were there ever any conceptual photos or drawings made of him that you could share? Are there any plans for Brace projects in the future?
“Brace was one of the two characters that I created specifically for the second season of ‘Who Wants To Be A Superhero.’ Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Wait, wasn’t Dan on the second season?’ Yes, that’s correct, but I originally auditioned for season ONE of the show with a similar character name, Paragon (which later became Parthenon). My submission got to the show’s producers too late and they had already cast the show, so I stayed home and watched the first season on TV like everyone else.”
“I went back to the drawing board and really examined who I would like to be if I were a superhero. I came up with two other characters, ‘Brace’ and ‘The Cape’ (this was WAY before the TV show). The Cape was a magician who finds Houdini’s cape, which gives him his abilities and is a portal to anywhere, so he’s constantly conjuring things out of it. I created him because I am obsessed with magic. I even took magic lessons as a kid and I still keep up with it!”
Brace was a hero that received his powers from a cybernetic back brace he was forced to wear after being involved in an accident. He now had super-strength, enhanced speed, a super-sonic punch and a costume which featured a split-cape in the back, showing off the brace (because he had accepted his weakness, flipping the handicap into a positive thing). His tagline was, “BRACE for impact!”
TJR: Fascinating! And which of the 3 personas would you say is most like the real Dan Williams?
“Brace’s character (weirdly) is the closest to being me. A long time ago, I was severely injured when someone who was drunk decided he was going to do a handstand on top of a 3-story balcony, lost his balance and fell directly on top of me. This compressed my spine and I have two injured spinal discs because of this. For about a year after the accident I had to wear a back brace everyday. Since then, I have had a few procedures done that have helped (a lot) and I no longer have to constantly wear it. The only good thing about the accident was that I saved that guy’s life; he only had a scrapped hand from that huge fall!”
TJR: With so many interesting characters to choose from, how did you decide on Parthenon as the one you’d like to debut on the show? We have to say, Brace and The Cape seem equally cool!
“While I was pulling together all of my new superhero characters’ info, costumes, etc., I got a phone call. At first I thought it was a joke. The woman on the other end said that they had reviewed my original audition video and loved my Paragon character! As a result, I was immediately fast-tracked to the show’s LA auditions. I was wearing this shirt that said ‘Mr. Wonderful’ (way before ABC TV’s ‘Shark Tank,’ by the way) and she was asking if I would change my name to that! Since I no longer needed Brace or The Cape, I put those two characters on the back burner. Will they ever be seen again? Maybe!”
TJR: In an online interview with Richard Vasseur, you stated:
“I always tried to act with honor and integrity and really wanted to be someone who could be looked up to, both inside the lair and outside it.”
TJR: That is a fantastic quote! With such a great attitude, it’s easy to see why you lasted so long on WWTBASH. Could you tell us please, who were your role models growing up? And who are your role models or icons (real or imaginary) today? And why?
“Ever since I was a kid, I have looked up to my parents, because of them I have had a really solid moral compass. I excelled in school, never drank until I was 21, and to this day, have never smoked a cigarette! I was very lucky to have wonderfully loving parents who supported me in everything I’ve ever done. From building arm-mounted bottle rocket launchers to giant Rube Goldberg machines and even coming out to my family. If I had an idea, they’d help me make it happen.”
“My imaginary role model was Hank Pym, aka Antman, Yellow Jacket, Giantman, etc. He was in the first comic I read and I immediately identified with him. He was an inventor first, who was thrust into being a superhero. I loved all of his gadgets and couldn’t wait to see what he came up with next. With this solid base, honestly, anything is possible!
10 years ago, I found this paper that my mom kept that said what you want to be when you grow up. I put ‘I want to be a superhero magician who is also an inventor!’ Well, I invent stuff all the time, know magic, and now I am a real-life superhero. I suppose with enough help and support, even the dreams of a 9 year-old kid can come true.”
TJR: When you first appeared on the SyFy Channel TV show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” (WWTBASH), you were 28. You’re now 35, correct? That’s actually a prime age for a superhero. Do you still feel comfortable donning Parthenon’s tights and do you still portray him at events?
“I’m 36 (at the time of this article) and I still love wearing my tights and cape. Every now and then, I’ll attend a con as Parthenon, most recently it was Stan Lee’s 2013 Comikaze where we had a show reunion. Luckily, everything still fits and pretty much looks the same, although I usually will almost always go scruffy instead of totally clean-shaven. I think it looks better with the costume.”
TJR: During your first audition in front of Stan Lee, you were shown wearing a cool-looking mask. Whatever happened to that?
“I loved that mask! I also enjoy leather-crafting and I made that mask by hand. It was supposed to be 2 diamond shapes put together. But on the first day of filming for the show, ALL of the heroes’ masks, glasses, etc were taken from us. The producers thought they hid too much of our faces and thought we looked better without them. I think it was the right choice in the end. Now for the bad news: my mask actually got lost somewhere in the lair and I never saw it again! Luckily, I still have my original template, so if I really wanted to, I could make another.”
TJR: What were your most memorable moments with Stan Lee?
“Stan Lee is fantastic, period, exclamation point! He had been someone whom I wanted to meet since forever! To me, he really is the face of comic books in general. My favorite moments with him were off-camera. During the filming of the show, we weren’t allowed to interact much because they wanted Stan to keep a ‘judge’s distance.’ But anytime we got to talk to Stan ‘live’ through the large monitors in the lair, he was HILARIOUS, especially when he was unscripted. After the show, I’ve talked to him a few more times. My favorite was when we were just sharing cookies in the break room at a convention. It’s quite a surreal feeling, just chatting with one of your idols over some chocolate chips!”
TJR: Do you possess any WWTBASH-related videos that fans have never seen? If so, do you plan on releasing them, possibly on your own website or on YouTube?
“There is a ton of stuff out there and I am finding more all the time. I usually find them by accident. I think the most recent is from the reunion panel at Comikaze Con (see below).”
TJR: During the course of our research and subsequent interviews with WWTBASH contestants, we’ve discovered that some of them are now extremely difficult to locate. Are you still in touch with all of them? For example, we’ve been unable to find Philip Allen (aka “Mindset”) or Paula Thomas (aka “Whip Snap”) anywhere online. Your thoughts on this?
“Yes, some heroes are quite hard to find and I think they like it that way. I have most of everyone’s personal info, but haven’t checked on it in years. A few of the heroes that I really bonded with are totally on my speed-dial though!”
TJR: In one of your radio interviews, you mentioned that you were really interested in creating an action figure of Parthenon. Did that idea ever gain any traction? Were any ever produced? If so, are they available anywhere for sale? Have you ever considered using Kickstarter for such creative projects? Did you get to keep the one-of-a-kind Parthenon action figure created for you by Herobuilders?
“I haven’t pursued an action figure of Parthenon YET—but only because of the rights issue. Technically, NBC-Universal owns the rights to all the characters’ likenesses on the show and we signed giant contracts that we weren’t suppose to do anything with them, really. Since then, I have been pursuing getting those rights back. I have an offer on the table, but not for total control of the character, which is what I would ultimately want. In the meantime, a fan created a super-cool paper-doll action figure you can download and assemble for free! As for the Herobuilders action figure, I do still have that! The producers sent it to me after we wrapped the show. The final four of us all got dolls, but only the final three got to see them in the lair. It was a HUGE surprise when I opened the box and saw it for the first time. It’s one of my most prized possessions and has a definite spot of honor in my collection!”
TJR: Let’s talk about some of the “missions” and challenges you endured on the show. What are your strongest memories of that first wind-n-water viaduct competition?
“That first challenge was an eye-opener for sure! Having watched the first season, this was leaps and bounds above anything they had ever done. It was then that I felt the show was going to be more of a superhero version of ‘Fear Factor’ and boy, was I right!
That first challenge was also when I wished I had put more thought into my shoes. I created my original sandals out of flip-flops and simple elastic bands that were sewn together. They had ZERO traction and were ridiculous to run in when wet. Ms. Limelight and I had to help each other, because her boots were obviously not even made for walking—let alone uphill—especially while soaking wet with a hurricane force gale blowing in our faces.
Thank GOODNESS we had The Defuser on our team! At one point, he literally grabbed the both of us and set us back on our feet. It was hilarious! I will say that this was also the challenge where I started to try to out-think the producers. Before we even started the challenge, I noticed the little key hanging on the shopping cart and I KNEW it would come into play later!”
TJR: In the Spelling Bee challenge, “Bee Sting” called on you derisively, saying, “Okay, Greek boy, go for it.” Then you misspelled “Benign,” and then she releases 10,000 bees into your cage! We know you’ve discussed this in interviews before, but what are your strongest memories of that day? Most people run for the hills when buzzed by only ONE bee or wasp. What was it like being locked in a box with 10,000?
“If there’s two things that I hate in the world—it’s insects and spelling! When we were in the lair and first saw Bee Sting, I was talking to the others about how I hoped it wasn’t going to be a spelling bee (which of course it was). What you didn’t see is all of the questions we spelled correctly. They edited out most of those. I was hoping they would leave at least one in with me being a teacher. But no… As far as the bees go, 10,000 is an exaggeration, as most villains are known to do. Nonetheless, we did get more bees put in our cage each time we lost and by the end we did have quite a lot in there with us! If you look at the microphone, you can see that there is a small box taped under the microphone. This box held the Queen bee and all of the drone bees flocked right to it. That meant any time it was your turn to answer, you were face to face and inches away from a ton of bees!”
“As soon as they started letting bees in to the cage, I quickly wrapped my cape around me. Let’s be honest, my original costume had a lot of exposed area! my cape strategy kept most of the bees off my body, while the rest was just a mental game of staying calm. What you DIDN’T see was Aja DeCoudreaux (aka “Basura”) using her insect-control powers on the bees, trying to ask them to leave. At this early point in the game we weren’t sure what ‘powers’ we could actually use (or when).
Finally, just when Bee Sting’s ‘honey’ was being dumped on us, I caught a reflection of it (beginning to pour) in the glass door. So, once again, I quickly wrapped my cape around me and ended up protecting my Armaguard gauntlet and original outfit. Everything on me was wash-n-wear, so when it came to redressing for the next day, my costume actually looked pretty darn good!”
TJR: When interviewing “Mr. Long” during the warehouse robbery challenge, he wanted to BUY your armaguard. At one point, he offered you $5,000! What were you thinking at that moment? Did you consider taking him up on it—even for a second? Or did you suspect he was insincere and simply testing you?
“Mr. Long was an extremely confusing test. We were given no explanation and no instructions. On the show, I was always on guard and decided to approach every challenge as Parthenon, not as Dan. Honestly, I think that is what helped me get so far on the show! As for his $5,000 offer, I knew he had no real interest in my Armaguard, so I kept cornering him with questions, 90% of which are never seen on the show.”
TJR: Despite the obvious advantages of “The Defuser” (aka real-life cop, Jarrett Crippen) and his domination of much of the show’s action, you seemed to do exceptionally well and ran a close second in many events. For example, during the tire-changing challenge, you were the first contestant to suspect it was merely a ruse, look around, and offer to help that deliveryman carry his boxes. What else do you remember about that challenge?
“The Defuser is fabulous; let me just say that before anything else! And I think he got edited really poorly on the show. To us, he was never dominating, we actually found him to be extremely helpful. Being a cop, he was very used to taking command. But if you go back and watch the show, I was actually always on the winning team or I won the solo missions, even on the episode where I get voted off! As far as the tire-changing challenge, I thought it was too easy. That’s why I started looking around. It made no sense that 10 heroes would have to put tires on a car. Once I broke out of that mindset, I noticed everything else going on and that is when I helped the deliveryman.”
“The thing that struck me the most funny on that challenge was the lost dog. First off, I am a dog person and a puzzle solver. But there is NO way that anyone would have figured that out. It actually became a big joke between all the heroes and we laughed about it (a lot). However, it did open my eyes for later challenges, because then I could see the kind of ‘outside of the box’ things Stan and the show’s producers were going for.”
TJR: Fans are very curious about the pre-show, non-disclosure contracts all contestants were required to sign. When do they expire? Can you tell us what was in them or anything else about them without getting into trouble? Are there subjects you CAN’T you discuss? Was there anything in the contract that surprised or bothered you personally—or gave you pause to reconsider participating?
“The contracts are obviously a giant part of TV. The non-disclosure contracts mainly applied until after the show aired. We could not reveal anything about the show, contestants, challenges, etc., or that would ruin the ending for the fans. As to why we still don’t talk about it, I personally feel that if you know too much behind-the-scenes info, it kind of ruins the magic of it. Like knowing how a trick is done. Once you know, it loses its special spark.
I get a lot of questions about the ‘true’ show, and I try to maintain a good, common ground. The only thing that I truly don’t like is that we had to sign our characters over to them. A few heroes on the show actually got whole new identities because they did not want to give up their established characters! The company lets us keep our costumes and make appearances, but for anything else there’s a whole legal process to go through. As I stated before, I am currently trying to get the rights back to use Parthenon in future projects.”
TJR: On the show, you seemed to be closest to Basura (Aja De Coudreaux) Hygena (Melody Mooney), Ms. Limelight (Trisha Paytas) and Braid (Crystal Clark), acting almost as their “brother-figure.” Would you say that’s an accurate assessment? How about the male contestants? Were you as close (or distant) to any of them?
“I was really close with all 4 of them and we all really depended a lot on each other. When you are away from your friends, family and loved ones for so long you need a support system. Honestly, I got along well with all the contestants, even Mr. Mitzvah (occasionally). Going through that show was a real bonding experience and I made some life-long friends as a result. I was sad when Braid got voted off. I met her at the auditions and was REALLY excited that she was to be on the show as well. I still talk with some of the other heroes. I am really close with The Defuser and his fabulous wife Norma as well, and I have visited them in Austin, TX for their giant haunted attraction ‘Scare For A Cure!’ Check out their site. That event is unlike anything else I have ever done and is fantastic! A word of warning though; don’t go if you’re claustrophobic!”
TJR: In the early scene when you’re told “Stan Lee wants YOU to be a superhero!,” where were you exactly? And who were all those people around you cheering you on? Was that all staged for the cameras or was it a real “gotcha!” surprise moment? Did Feedback break the news to you in-person, as he did with some of the others, or did you learn in some other way?
“That scene was filmed at the college where I was working at during that time. The producers told me to gather a group of my friends and family because they wanted to interview them and get their opinions about me. So everyone you see in that group are my near and dear friends. They sent out only one camera guy, like it was no big deal, gathered us all in a room and I thought they were going to start asking everyone questions, but instead they sprang the news that I was selected to be on the show. My reaction was a true, 100% honest surprise!”
TJR: The prototype cover of your Parthenon comic book (shown above) was FANTASTIC. Sort of like Samson bringing down the temple. Did you get to keep that exact poster from the show? Do you know where the original artwork for that cover is today? That would be the ULTIMATE Parthenon collectible—other than your own armaguard.
“That cover holds a love-hate relationship for me. I do have a poster from the show, but not the one used in filming. I actually don’t care for the cover myself. I feel it looked nothing like me and didn’t represent my character in the slightest. I still take it with me to conventions and when I do classes, but if I ever do create a Parthenon comic book—that will not be on the cover.”
TJR: Okay, fair enough. Well, have any amateur or professional writers or artists ever created a more accurate comic book based on one of your characters (Parthenon, The Cape or Brace)? And if so, where can fans buy them? And if not, are there plans for such projects in the future? Again, maybe with Kickstarter funding as the source?
“Currently there is a bit of fan fiction out there for Parthenon, but nothing official has been created—yet!”
TJR: Clearly, “ROCK ON!” was your strongest catch-phrase. But when you were describing Parthenon to the other contestants, you told them your superhero catch-phrase was “Bling’s my thing!” And then added, “I’m all about the gemstones!” In response, the Defuser’s mouth dropped open (in apparent disbelief), Basura rolled her eyes, Hygena stared blankly ahead, and Mindset arched his eyebrow incredulously. Did their obvious apathetic reactions disappoint you? And did it cause you to question your superhero’s validity or potential?
“Not to spoil the magic, but editing has a factor in this. When we were all sitting around, no one had those reactions. If anything, I got compliments on how well thought-out my character was. Of course, that doesn’t make for interesting TV, so…”
TJR: How did you feel when you received your new costume from Stan? Any memories of that part of the show? Do you still own that costume? Is it displayed at your home on a mannequin, in your closet boxed up, or..?
“To be honest, I was a little disappointed in my new costume. I’d put a lot of hard work into my original and I don’t feel their version met my expectations. For example, they had originally replaced my armaguard with a pair of cheap dollar store bracelets, one of which I eventually incorporated into my new look. They also gave me a more traditional-looking cape. The one-shouldered cape was part of my signature look because it highlighted the armaguard and that was the main part of my costume. They also completely changed my color scheme from blue, black and silver to teal and gold.”
“Of course, we originally were blindfolded while we were getting dressed in our new costumes so that our reactions upon first seeing them would be genuine, but I could already feel that I did not like the cape. Once they had put us back into the ‘transformation closet,’ I had about 5 seconds before the door opened and saw my new look. I very quickly threw my cape over one shoulder and when the doors opened, I had my off-the-shoulder cape and they had to let me keep it. If you look carefully in the same episode, I eventually talked to the show’s producers and got my armaguard back as well as my official off-the-shoulder cape. Luckily, Basura had a needle with her and I used dental floss to fix and sew my own cape and add the loop to the one side, so that I could hook it on the bracelet on my right arm. After I fixed my costume myself, I did like it a lot more.”
TJR: During the Six Flags challenge, you were required to run all over the park gathering clues. At one point, you openly admitted:
“I thought I was in pretty good shape, but I tell you, running in spandex is NOT easy.”
TJR: What do you remember about that challenge? Riding the roller coaster, searching the park, being distracted by those two pushy, photo-fans, or..?
“I actually had a good time in that challenge. Running all over the park was fun—but exhausting! I also love roller coasters, so I had no trouble with that. And we actually dealt with those ‘fans’ a lot differently than was shown in the final edit. Basura and I originally got past them quickly while still being polite. However, after we got the padlock off and noticed that we were still missing some teammates, we decided to go and keep the fans distracted so that the other heroes would not get stopped by them. This seemed like a great plan (to us), but I’m sure the producers wanted to give other heroes a chance to ‘interact’ with the fans.”
TJR: Back at the lair, when you were filling out Stan’s questionnaires on the computers, were you being a: brutally honest, b: cautiously careful, or c: strategically smart? What are your memories of filling out those “mission reports?”
“Those missions reports were brutal! All of the heroes got along so well that it was super-hard to throw anyone under the bus. I answered all of the questions honestly, because that is what heroes do, for better or worst. In my personal life, I actually follow this same philosophy.”
TJR: Before the first elimination, you chose Mr. Mitzvah (Ivan Wilzig) as the most likely to be cut, because you felt “his isolation might hurt him.” Mr. Mitzvah by contrast, selected you and Ms. Limelight (Trisha Paytas), saying that you both just like to “talk ‘n talk ‘n talk ‘n talk!” Was there any schism or tension between you and Wilzig? Do you have any memories you’d care to share about Mr. Mitzvah?
“Ivan was…interesting. I first met him at the auditions. He was extremely guarded and not very friendly. However, during my audition trip, I took notes on EVERYTHING; on anyone I met or talked to. When I got home, I tried to find any information I could about those I’d met. Ivan only told me his original superhero name: “Peaceman.” From that, I was able to look him up, find out who he was and his backstory. When the ‘big reveal’ that he was a millionaire happened on the show, I’d already known from the beginning. I actually didn’t know it was a secret and told the whole house on day 3! The producers asked me how I knew and I told them about the audition. They just laughed it off and said, “Well played.”
TJR: Your sense of fair play really rose to the fore when the group later began discussing Mr. Mitzvah in secret—after he left the room. You objected, stating:
“Shouldn’t Mr. Mitzvah be here for this though? I wouldn’t want anything said behind his back. I believe in the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
For some reason (at that moment), the Defuser disagreed with you, and you ended up scoring even MORE kudos from Stan Lee as a result. Lee even praised you about it later, saying, “You showed INTEGRITY when others wanted to talk behind Mr. Mitzvah’s back.” Viewers at home surely concurred with both you and Stan, and it seemed as if you were pulling out ahead (again) in terms of character strength and integrity. Your comments?
“Let me start by saying that Mr. Mitzvah and I didn’t really get along in the house, we barely talked. However, anything I had to say (negative or positive) about anyone I would want to say it to his or her face. He should have the chance to defend his actions and explain himself. The Defuser initially disagreed with me because we wanted to gauge everyone else’s opinions FIRST before talking to Mitzvah, which I understood to a point, but I still would have rather talked as a whole group. The few conversations I did have with Mitzvah were mostly of which were never shown. I had a ton of questions about his character, his backstory and generally how he acted on the show. All of these were met with a lot of resistance, so eventually I just had to accept it and move on.”
TJR: When Basura was called forward for elimination, you strongly and noticeably shook your head. What thoughts (about her) were going through your mind at that moment?
“I was super shocked! I thought we were going to be judged as a duo and that we made a fantastic team together. We got all of our clues, solved all of our puzzles, and were the first ones to finish. I completely disagreed with her being up there on the elimination blocks.”
TJR: When Mr. Mitzvah and Ms. Limelight were eliminated on the same night, it was clearly very emotional for everyone remaining. What do you remember about that night and the emotional impact of a surprise double-elimination?
“At this point in the show, I was concerned that Ms. Limelight was going home, so when Stan announced that Mr. Mitzvah was the one to go, there was a collective sign of relief from pretty much everyone. Afterwards, we started to leave the rooftop when Stan suddenly called us back. We thought it had nothing to do with the show, but when it was revealed that there was to be a double elimination, I knew that Ms. Limelight was done for. She and I were really close in the house, so that elimination hit me really hard. A little side note: All of the heroes were told to not get off our boxes, but we felt like we had to go and hug Ms. Limelight one last time, even if we got in trouble.”
TJR: During the clothes-changing challenge at Universal City Walk, your “P” emblem was facing the wrong way in one scene. Had you changed too quickly and put your shirt on inside-out?
“The P is facing the wrong way? I had never noticed. I’m pretty sure the editors just flipped the video horizontally when editing. Why, I have no idea. But I loved this challenge, actually. When we first started, I thought it was impossible to talk ANYONE into giving you their clothes in public. I was really lucky though. The third group I talked to was a fantastic group of 3 women. The rules were you could only get one item from each person and I managed to talk each of them into giving me one thing. Pants was the hardest, but I had the great idea that the girl could tie her friends sweatshirts around her waist as a skirt—and she did it! I was floored! I was done getting my items before anyone knew what actually happened.”
TJR: What about “Emily,” the supposedly lost child? And did you believe that her mother was real, or did you suspect her true-identity and that she was secretly working for Dr. Dark, the show, etc.?
“As for the fake mom, I mean, come on! You could totally tell she was an actress. But did I know she was secretly Bee Sting? NO! We had ZERO clue on that one!”
TJR: By finding the secret courier and stolen check first, you won the clothes-changing challenge and scored even more kudos from Stan. Were you feeling pretty unstoppable at that point?
“I was searching for that spy for quite a LONG time. When I finally found him and won the challenge, it was a huge feeling of relief knowing I’d be safe for another week and get to fight another day!”
TJR: What are your memories of visiting the comic book store where you met Dark Horse Comics president, Mike Richardson, saw Parthenon on a comic, and heard Stan say: “THIS is what’s waiting for ONE of you—at the end!”?
“I was SOOOO excited to see our covers and meet Mike; it was one of those moments that you really wanted to be special. Honestly though, when I saw my cover, I was excited for a minute and then felt really let down. I felt like it didn’t capture anything about my hero, his powers or his story. And I didn’t feel like it looked like ME, either.”
“On that cover, Parthenon looks like a Hulk-sized Superman, which he is not. He is an archaeologist, who stumbles across an ancient bracelet. Disappointed, I tried to focus on everyone else’s covers instead. Later, off-camera, a few other heroes and I were talking and they said they felt the same way. Some felt the covers were rushed and incomplete. It was like the artists that drew them had received none of our character’s information beforehand.”
TJR: Another emotional moment came when you were awarded a phone call home, and then shared the prize with Hygena, who wept openly. Your thoughts?
“This reward made me so happy for so many reasons. When you are so cut off from the real world, any chance to get something familiar is precious. When I asked what I could and could not discuss, the producers said I could talk about anything that happened so far, this doesn’t seem important but it TOTALLY was. All the heroes had to sign non-disclosure forms saying we could not talk to ANYONE about anything from the show, so I got to share all of my experience with my BF Derek at the time. I never talked so fast! I literally tried to tell him everything I could.
After that, I got to be more relaxed and just talk to him normally It was this scene that actually got Sci-Fi nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Reality Program; their first ever I believe! They were nominated because of 3 little words that I said, ‘I Love You!’ to my boyfriend. That was all it took! Suddenly, Sci-Fi was ‘gay-approved’ and we were nominated along with Project Runway and Kathy Griffin (Griffin took home the award that year).”
“When it came time to give away the other call, I chose Hygena immediately, with zero thinking. I knew she needed it the most. The producers asked me to give the other heroes a chance to explain their case, which I did, but it was totally Hygena’s. I was happy with the choice and felt it brought us closer together.”
TJR: Fans are very interested in the rooftop eliminations and the actual technologies involved. Could you describe what we couldn’t see off-camera? For example, was the image of Stan really shown on the billboard or were you watching a smaller TV screen somewhere else off camera? Were there lights and multiple cameras everywhere? What do you remember about going up there night after night?
“Surprisingly fans see almost everything as it is up there! Stan really was projected on the billboard, but it was on the same rooftop as us. There were lights of course and a big crane camera for those fantastic looking high angle-sweeping shots of us. One of the coolest things fans never saw is that to get out to the roof the door was actually a bookcase that opened. Why they never showed that I don’t know! It was also FREEZING up there! I was usually wrapped up in my cape like a blanket in-between takes. One night it was so cold, that they got us all big coats and blankets to share. You can literally see some of us shaking, not out of fear of elimination, but of frostbite—and I am not talking about the villain!”
TJR: What are your memories of the power station challenge? Were all the snakes, spiders, rats, etc. real? Were they actually touching or falling on contestants or endangering them in any real way? Or were they simply inconvenient, kept behind clear plexi and frightening? What do fans not know about that event?
It was the worst challenge EVER! I HATE snakes, bugs, spiders, etc. and I tried to put on a brave face for the show, but inside I was screaming! The pipe we had to crawl through was so small and ridged that I banged up my knee during that. I still have no idea how the Defuser even fit in the pipe let alone crawled through it. Must be something that they train you for in the Police Academy!
What the fans couldn’t see is that I had a bit of light in there ONLY because of my armaguard! I built my armaguard myself out of leather, but the main stone in the center, the Allstone, was lit by LEDs and changed colors. This didn’t really come across in the video, but it is one of my favorite things about my costume. So, before starting the challenge, I switched on my light and went inside.”
“But then, while I was crawling through the tunnel, I slammed my arm into the side of it and broke the switch to my armaguard! The light went out and I could not believe my horrible timing. Inside of the Power Station, there really were all those creepy, crawly things. You could only see for a second or two in there when the light pulsed. I managed to duck under the pipe on the way to the fuse box, but on the way back, I knew the pipe was there, so I reached out for it. Instead of the pipe, I grabbed onto a giant snake that was sitting on it! This is when I let out my (infamous) ‘scream.’ Listen to it again and you can tell I was caught completely by surprise and started laughing (at myself) immediately as a result. I KNEW my screaming was going to be questioned by Stan. Luckily, I had a few hours before elimination, and it was in that time that I came up with one of my favorite lines from the show: ‘That wasn’t a scream, that was a battle cry!”
TJR: Dr. Dark’s video revelation about your “obsession with pirates” and having a “whole room dedicated to the dark side” didn’t seem to faze Stan much, and you had no comment. Why was that?
“My whole scene for this landed on the cutting room floor. As I said earlier in this interview, this is my favorite memory of Stan. For weeks, I’d been telling the heroes about my crazy-themed house, but hadn’t been allowed to show them pictures of it. Ironically, Dr. Dark’s ‘dark side’ video was literally my bf giving everyone a TOUR—of my house. Of course, I couldn’t have been happier to show it off! As to an obsession with pirates, I responded to this question with the fact that I had played the Pirate King and Stan’s lightning fast response was,‘Well anyone who likes Gilbert and Sullivan can’t be bad!’
Later in the video, they showed my comic book room and some of my cosplay costumes, so Dr. Dark tried to imply that I was merely ‘playing the hero’ instead of actually being one. I responded with ‘I disagree. I think dressing up and cosplay in general could not be more heroic. You idolize the heroes so much—you want to BE them. It helped train me for the hero that I am today.’ Needless to say, that wasn’t aired on the show either. I think they were just trying to find something on me that I couldn’t spin into a positive. That’s why the final aired response was my saying nothing at all.”
TJR: Congratulations on making it to Stan’s “Final Four.” Your first stumble, however, came soon after, during the elementary school challenge when you learned that “ZERO students preferred Parthenon.” At the time, you stated you were very surprised by their reaction. And when you first met Stan in the auditions, you told him that the reason you wanted to be on the show was “to be a role model for kids.” Just before you were eliminated, Stan would tell you that you “had failed as a role model” (based on the student vote). How did you feel about that surprising turn of events, and what are your thoughts about it all now?
“This whole challenge was an editing nightmare. I don’t want to say too much about it, but my ‘friendly get to know you time’ with the kids was never shown. My team came in first for the challenge and then my team got to sit around and chat more, which was also never shown. As for zero percent of the vote, I still do find that a little hard to believe, but not really. Hyper-Strike was literally doing hand-stands on top of a chair on top of their tables! Heck, even I would have voted for him!”
TJR: Without a doubt, the true nadir for Parthenon fans came when “Evil Stan” began playing the heroes for fools, treating you all as puppets and pawns during the city-square challenge. It all began when you borrowed someone’s sunglasses and a woman’s cane, then began dancing a silly jig on the sidewalk. When you were finally done, you placed her cane on a trash can and jogged away from the scene! This was all so PAINFUL for your fans to watch! Do you have any (hopefully redeeming) memories regarding that challenge? And now that we now know the contestants’ wrist-communicators were non-functional props (see HERE), how did you receive your orders from “Evil” Stan Lee?
“This was also one of my least favorite challenges and 90% of my stuff was edited out. As to the communicators, we got our instructions through a hidden earpiece. And as soon as they asked us to do weird things, I literally stopped and asked the producers if we had to do these tasks because my character wouldn’t do this. You also never saw that I ‘undid’ everything (that I had done) and made sure everything was put back the way it was. I ran that woman’s cane back to her across the street as well, so no need to worry.”
TJR: Despite the debacle of the city-square challenge, you seemed to redeem yourself later in the locked crate challenge, devising and coordinating a strategy that was used to escape. To viewers, that event seemed to be all about the men working together while Hygena just stood back and watched. After escaping the box, you seemed like a shoe-in to remain on the show and Hygena seemed to be in the most trouble. What are your memories of this test?
“The crate challenge was frustrating, but I did think that I was a key part of escaping it. So (in my mind) at this point, I felt I had won the school challenge, undid all my weird tasks at the city-square challenge and helped us escape from the box. I really did think I was ‘safe’ from elimination and honestly believed that Hyper-Strike was going home for revealing his secret-identity to the kids at the school. That’s basic ‘Hero 101’ stuff that you just don’t do, and someone was voted off the show for doing just that on Season 1—and he (Hyper-Strike) was also on the chopping-block before! This was to be my first time EVER standing on a red square, because I had either won or was a part of the winning team in EACH episode.”
TJR: As we all know now, later that same evening, despite your excellent performance in the locked crate challenge, you were the next contestant to be eliminated. Were you as shocked as the viewers when Stan cut you from the show ahead of Hygena? What are your strongest memories of that night?
“Total shock is all I can say about it. I had ZERO clue it was coming until I was on the elimination block. I was 100% convinced it would be Hyper-strike! The whole rest of that night is a blur, until sitting in my hotel room a few hours later, waiting for a flight to take me home. I was confused at what could have happened and after watching how it was edited—I still don’t really get it!”
TJR: Clearly, it was your failure to bond with the children that had sent you home. Up to that point, Hygena, despite her pluck and tenacity, had regularly been disappointing to Mr. Lee. By contrast, there was little else to criticize about you. In fact, Stan’s parting words to you were, “Parthenon, you brought wit and wisdom to this grueling process. You performed nobly.” Now, some 7 years later, what final thoughts would you like to share with all the fans out there who still hold you (and the show) so near and dear?
“First off, I really want to say a giant ‘Thank You! & Rock On!’ to all the fans of the show and of Parthenon. I am still in awe at how many people still LOVE this show and talk to me about it to this day. I think it touched that ‘inner nerd’ in all of us and I could not have been more proud to be a part of it. It gave me the chance to actually BE a Superhero and I’m one of those very lucky people who were able to truly LIVE—a dream.”
Bottom Line: We expect to see bigger and better things from this talented young man far into the future. Our sincerest thanks also to Dan and all the other contestants for their continued and generous contributions to these articles. As to the potential for a return of Parthenon, we’ll leave you with this one final quote from Dan:
“Currently I’m working on starting up my YouTube Cosplay Channel called Super Secrets, where we’ll be crafting—for superheroes! It combines a lot of my passions, so I am extremely excited about it. Will we see Parthenon doing anything in the future? It all depends on how those contracts turn out. Just know that I’m actively working on new projects that I hope fans (old and new) will love.”